Both the Senate and House have passed versions of the Economic Recovery Act, but the two versions are not equal. The Senate version have removed various health care provisions. The cuts are bad in the short-term, eliminating thousands of new jobs and not extending much-needed help for those most affected by the economic downturn. They're also bad in the long term, weakening our public health, weakening our social safety net just when it's about to be most strongly tested, and refusing to address health care problems that are draining the financial reserves of families and government budgets alike.
Write to your Representative and Senators. Urge them that the health care provisions in the House version of the bill should prevail in the final version of the bill, especially:
* subsidies for COBRA
* temporary eligibility under Medicaid for those who have lost their jobs
* prevention and wellness programs
* pandemic flu prevention programs
* smoking cessation programs
* comparative effectiveness research
Spending on health care and public health makes sense as short-term stimulus, creating good-paying jobs for health care workers, researchers, technicians, while allowing those who are hardest hit by the economic downturn to keep their health care coverage, allowing them to spend into the economy rather than squirrel away money against catastrophic illness. It's also good in the long term, making progress on big issues that we know will only cost more if we don't deal with them now.
The provisions on COBRA subsidies and Medicaid eligibility for those who have lost their job are vital to help our fellow citizens through these tough economic times. It is necessary help that only the federal goverment can provide. Moreover, a comparative effectiveness study would create jobs and finally yield neutral third-party information on whether the treatments that cause the U.S. to spend far more health care dollars than any other country are yielding better health. This is a level of accountability I wish were on all our spending programs.
The provisions on public health, particularly pandemic flu preparation, smoking cessation, HIV screening, prevention and wellness not only create jobs and catch expensive chronic health care conditions when it is cheap to do so, creating tremendous savings, but they literally save lives. It is unclear what values would make cutting such sound public health and stimulus that protects the safety of our citizens palatable. But it is unacceptable and dangerous that they've been removed from the Senate version for the sake of mere penny-pinching.
Please let your colleagues know that we are anxious get our country back on track, and to begin making progress on the long road to a more sane health care system.